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Misconduct or health issue?

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Daley v Vodaphone Automotive Ltd 

Where there are allegations of misconduct ensuring that there is a reasonable investigation will be a key part of the disciplinary process. The employer will be expected to consider the explanations put forward by the employee before deciding whether it would be reasonable to dismiss in the circumstances. In Daley v Vodaphone Automotive Ltd the issue was whether the investigation had been sufficient where the employee had suggested that there might be a medical reason for his conduct.

Facts

Mr Daley, a warehouse supervisor, had faced disciplinary proceedings after a confrontation with a colleague in which it was alleged he had sworn and behaved in an offensive, threatening and intimidating manner. Mr Daley denied the allegation but was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. When he appealed he revealed that he had been suffering with severe depression on a long term basis and that some of the side effects were anger, frustration, irritability and anxiety. His appeal was dismissed.

Decision

An Employment Tribunal decided that no award of compensation would be made even though the process followed had been unfair. In the Employment Appeal Tribunal it was held there had been a failure to consider whether the employer had conducted a reasonable investigation. It was necessary to establish whether the employer had taken sufficient steps to investigate Mr Daley’s mental health and any possible impact on his behaviour before assessing contributory fault and compensation. 

Key takeaway point

The decision highlights the risk of not investigating issues raised by the employee even if they are only brought to the employer’s attention at the appeal stage. Failing to consider the explanations for the conduct may result in a finding that there has been a failure to carry out a reasonable investigation leading to the dismissal being unfair. It should also be taken into account then when long term medical conditions have triggered the conduct there may be liability for disability claims too. 

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